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Recap: Architecture In Helsinki at World Cafe Live

Has Architecture In Helsinki been tamed? The Australian indie poppers relish putting on concerts that are equal parts playful and chaotic. They’ve been known to trade guitars for xylophones and cowbells and to employ an assortment of bizarre props, from piñatas to plastic limbs. Mostly, Architecture is famous for inspiring enthusiastic, jubilant dance parties wherever they go.

Saturday’s show at World Café Live found them a bit more polished, measured, and calculated than they once were. That infectious, over-the-top excitement—the exuberance and bedlam of a bunch of eager kids—has been replaced with a more mature approach. The songs are delivered energetically, but the rawness and the disorder have been reined in. It’s no longer about spectacle; gone are the props and most of the coordinated choreography and clapping. (“That Beep” was the sole exception on Saturday, with four members lining up to perform a robot-meets-fitness-video routine.)

The show began with a wave of ambient, glittery noise and a flood of glowing blacklight, making World Café Live feel like a planetarium turned nightclub. The band emerged, looking a little rumpled and a little tired. (This was the last night of a month-long U.S. tour.) Lack of sleep and dry cleaning notwithstanding, they beamed and launched into “Desert Island,” from their most recent album Moment Bends. In some ways, Architecture’s new live aesthetic is a reflection of the shift in sound established in Moment Bends. Much more so than previous efforts, Bends is a cohesive, clean record.  It doesn’t sprawl or flit. With a host of smooth, glossy synths and ’80s pop hooks, you could be forgiven for momentarily mistaking Kellie Sutherland’s voice for Cyndi Lauper’s.

Fortunately for the members of Architecture In Helsinki, the change has not killed their ability to incite a gleeful, bopping frenzy, especially when they’re reviving material from In Case We Die (“Wishbone,” “Maybe You Can Owe Me,”) and Places Like This (“Hold Music”). Some numbers fell a little flat: “Sleep Talkin,” and “Souvenirs” an old, slower tune, had the crowd chattering and restless. The closing songs were the strongest. During “Do The Whirlwind” and “Heart It Races,” various members of opener Hooray For Earth materialized on stage, clutching tambourines and maracas and jumping around wildly with Architecture, who’d swapped instruments for microphones.

Even “B4 3D,” which is new (and not yet at sing-a-long status), didn’t break the momentum built by the string of hits. Cameron Bird introduced the final song, “Contact High,” by thanking the people responsible for the tour and saying, “Let’s just have the best three and a half minutes together.” The audience, which had been almost sedate at the evening’s outset, fulfilled his wish with abandon. Hooray For Earth’s lead singer appeared again only to be literally carried out by the guitarist. (You get the feeling that he secretly wishes he were in a fun pop band so that he could dance during his set, too.)

So has Architecture In Helsinki been subdued by maturity? Refined a bit, perhaps. But the answer, happily, is no. —Kiley Bense